“But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me, to show my holiness before the eyes of the Israelites, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.” (Numbers 20:12)
This is one of the more annoying plot twists in the Bible. Moses, who had put up with the whining, unappreciative Israelites for decades at this point was not allowed to enter into the Promised Land. Why? Because he struck the rock instead of speaking to it like God told him to do.
Fast forward a thousand years or so, and Peter is praying on his roof when he had a strange vision (Acts 10). Peter saw a sheet coming down from heaven with animals on it and a voice that said, “Peter, get up, kill and eat.”
Peter’s response was a clear no, because the Holiness Laws forbade it, to which God replied, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.”
Just then he became aware of some people approaching him and the voice told him to go with them. They took him to the home of a God-fearing man, which still meant he was a Gentile and Peter would be violating the Law to enter into the man’s house because he was unclean, but “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.”
God had thrown out the kosher laws, the Holiness Laws of Moses. What on earth?! Those were a really, really big deal!
A few chapters later (Acts 15), we get an account of the Council of Jerusalem. The topic of debate was whether or not Gentiles had to be circumcised in order to be saved. Well, of course they did! Circumcision was the sign of the covenant; it was the thing that made a person one of God’s people.
The problem was, as we can imagine, it was a bit of a stumbling block for grown men in their conversion. So, the Council voted and threw it out as a prerequisite.
Scripture is very clear about both the Holiness Laws and circumcision. There is no debate. There is no democracy. This is what it is.
Until it wasn’t. After more than a thousand years of law and tradition, these two things, the two things that made a person Jewish (at that time, Christianity was a sect of Judaism) were just cast aside.
I had heard and read these passages dozens of times before the gravity of what was going on in them really hit me: God would not be bound by the Law anymore.
Ohhhh… that’s why Jesus died! That’s what it meant that Jesus fulfilled the old covenant!
We can choose to live by the Law if we want, but then we will also die by the Law. Or we can choose to live in Christ Jesus, who has freed us from the Law of sin and death!
So, what about that unnerving Moses story? Moses fell back on what worked before. God wanted to do a new thing, but Moses was frustrated and struck the rock. God wanted Moses to try something different, but Moses refused, the people were still nourished, but Moses and Aaron were both fired. Why? Because they didn’t trust that God would act differently than before. Moses wasn’t struck down; he wasn’t afflicted with boils or anything. It didn’t negate all he had done before. He just wasn’t allowed to move into the next space.
I love the Bible. I consider myself to be a Bible-believing Christian. But I also believe in a God who will not be bound or restricted by it, which is something the Bible taught me.
My goal is to express that not everyone who leans more progressive is throwing out the Bible. Both traditionalists and progressives believe in the Bible.
We are in a time not unlike those early years of Christianity, a time of shifting values, where some view the old ways as stumbling blocks to new converts. It wasn’t easy then and it’s not easy now.
I believe that in order to reach the next generation, we need to take a hard look at the things about us that are stumbling blocks to others knowing Jesus. It’s hard and it means running the risk of being wrong. After years of prayer, study, and struggle, I have counted the cost and I have chosen to take the risk. I believe that it is the Holy Spirit guiding me down this path.
I’ll close with these words from Paul, who I think found himself in a similar position:
“Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother or sister. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who considers it unclean.” (Romans 14:13-14)
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